A defence witness, Richard Ihediwa, in the ongoing trial of the former National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olisa Metuh, on Thursday told a Federal High Court in Abuja that publicity activities were funded by the erstwhile national publicity secretary in the heat of President Goodluck Jonathan’s re-election campaign in 2015.
Led in evidence by the defence counsel, Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), Ihediwa said it came to a point that the “situation room” was not funded by the party, and Metuh decided to pick up the burden and funded the activities of the publicity team from his pocket.
He told the court that the financial status of the publicity arm of the PDP was so bad that, “It came to a point that companies that ran advert for us will come to the secretariat and demand their payment and we were not able to pay them.”
He added that it came to a time he wanted to resign because the work load was too much for him, but Metuh begged and asked him to understand that the publicity office was not funded.
“That was when it was decided that extra hands be hired but that he (Metuh) said he would pay them from his pocket.
“Because of the nature of our schedule, I had to wake up 4.30am every day till late in the night to prepare story for media publication, so as to make informed decisions, to make press statement and to react to press publications. I literally broke down because of pressure of work. I couldn’t cope because I was alone.
“I told the first defendant (Metuh) I would not be able to continue except he hired other professionals. He reminded me that funding was an issue in the party and said he had severally made case to the national working committee of the PDP to no avail. He pleaded I should continue, but I said I couldn’t under such condition.
“The first defendant himself also had health issues with the work. We then agreed to hire more hands and five more media men were hired at the expense of first defendant.
“I was not happy that he was going to use his money to fund party publicity. I accosted him why he was doing so, he said he has decided to succeed as publicity secretary and for that he was prepared to make financial sacrifice.
“He went ahead to buy laptops, cameras, video cameras and was the one paying their monthly allowances. As I speak, the party has not refunded him that money,” the witness told the court and further narrated how the media team went beyond laundering the image of PDP to projecting and showcasing the achievements of the Federal Government.
This, he said, earned the attention of the then President, Goodluck Jonathan, who requested the team to prepare a presentation to be given to a consultant to handle.
“I remember sometime in the month of November 2014 in one of our situation room meetings, Metuh told us that former President Goodluck Jonathan told him that he had an issue to discuss with us.
“We met and consider a request from then President through Metuh ahead of the 2015 elections; he wanted us to make a presentation. At the time we were talking, there was fuel scarcity in the country. There was a doomsday prediction by some countries that the nation would disintegrate. There was also fear in the polity. There were fears that 2015 elections were going to be marred by violence.
“What was paramount at that time was the stability of the nation. We were made to understand that there were other groups that wanted us to come up with programmes to counter these. Then we started researching and came up with our strategy. Then National Chairman of the party, Mau’zu, informed us that the President was ready to take on the bill. Metuh then called in media consultant from Lagos.
“The consultant came, went through our materials, we then proceeded to the President’s office.
“Cross River and Anambra governors, Reuben Abati, one special assistant to the President, Mau’zu, were all there when we met with the President,” the witness told the court.
The trial judge, Justice Okon Abang, adjourned till October 31, 2016 for continuation of trial in the matter.